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Protests continue against water shutoffs

water shutoffs

Detroit residents protest water shutoffs
ZENOBIA JEFFRIES PHOTO

STAFF REPORT

DETROIT — “May is drinking water month in Detroit,” read a banner at the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department in downtown Detroit. But thousands of Detroiters don’t have running water in their homes and the numbers are growing.  

Demonstrators marched at the DWSD on Randolph St., May 30, to protest the mass water shutoffs of city residents.

It’s been over two months since Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr announced DWSD is cutting service for 1500-3000 customers a week for those residents who are behind $150 or more on their water bills, or whose accounts are 60 days overdue. 

According to DWSD nearly half of the city’s residential customers— 154,000 out of 296,000 — are delinquent.

“Cutting off water is a human rights violation,” said Abayomi Azikiwe, a member of Moratorium NOW!, the organization that co-organized the protest. “People are entitled to basic amenities.”

Azikwe says the shutoffs are a direct effect of emergency management.

During the ongoing bankruptcy hearing, Jones Day, one of the city’s many restructuring firms — and the firm where Orr was a partner just before his appointment as Detroit EM — told presiding Judge Stephens Rhodes there was no money for infrastructure repair because of the amount owed to the DWSD by its customers.

Detroit pensioner David Sole joins protest against water shutoffs ZENOBIA JEFFRIES

Detroit pensioner David Sole joins protest against water shutoffs
ZENOBIA JEFFRIES

Azikwe and Atty. Jerome Goldberg, also of Moratorium NOW! say that’s not true but it’s because of fraudulent loans.

“In 2011, there were bonds floated in total of a billion dollars to fix the infrastructure says Goldberg.

“But $537 million went instead to pay off interest rate swaps to JP Morgan Chase, UBS, Morgan Stanley and (other financial institutions),” Golberg said. “The banks were rewarded. More than half of the money for infrastructure went to banks. (Now) we’re talking about raising rates on Detroiters and going through with tens of thousands of shut offs.”

DWSD Deputy Director Darryl Latimer told the Michigan Citizen in March that the shut-offs are “nothing new.”

“We do this every year. We’ve always shut people off for being delinquent in their water service,” Latimer said. “We’ve always in the winter suspended that because when the temperature gets below 32 degrees you have the propensity for lines to freeze up because of the weather, so we curtail our shutoffs for delinquencies because if someone comes and pays and then we turn the water back on you’ll sometimes find that the line has frozen.”

Cicely McClellan who also says emergency management is the cause of the shutoffs, says  there are two sets of laws operating in Detroit.

“They are disproportionately cutting off citizens, the low income, the elderly, children, who need the water and allowing large corporations not to pay their water bills. It’s a sin,”McClellan told the Michigan Citizen.

Recently local media has reported that tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars is owed by businesses and organizations. WDIV reported Palmer Park Golf Club owed $200,000, Joe Louis Arena/Red Wings Hockey owed $80,000 and Ford Field 55,000.

“We are seeing two separate laws, and when we see that we call it apartheid,” she said. “Where you can have persons that are charged with the highs crimes, for instance Mayor Kilpatrick with RICO and Andy Dillon who gave a no bid contract to Conway Mckenzie, one of the finance companies in determining Detroit should be in bankruptcy and now Andy Dillon works for Conway Mckenzie. There are no legal actions being taken against Andy Dillion. … There is clear injustice here.”

Moratorium NOW! and D-REM (Detroiters Resisting Emergency Management) have scheduled another demonstration for Friday, June 6, at 4 p.m. Protesters will meet in front of the DWSD at 735 Randolph and march to Dan Gilbert’s Quicken Loans headquarters at 1050 Woodward.

“Quicken Loans was part of the sub prime lending in Detroit,”Goldberg said. “In almost every issue (including the water shutoffs) the real source of what caused the problem is being overlooked.”

Goldberg says the financial institutions are responsible for the blight, and 67,000 home foreclosures in Detroit that has led the city to bankruptcy.

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